SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s involvement in the US Mueller investigation
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Last week we saw Scott Morrison attend what was a de facto ‘re-elect President Donald Trump rally’ in Ohio. Today what we have heard, and had confirmed by the Prime Minister’s office, is that he received a phone call from President Trump and responded to that phone call. President Trump was asking for his assistance in discrediting the Mueller investigation. This is a very serious issue. It’s one which has attracted the world’s focus, with the report first being revealed by The New York Times. The Prime Minister needs to explain to the Australian people exactly what happened here, exactly what his role has been, what took place in terms of this phone call, so that it is made clear that the Australian Prime Minister is not involved in what is essentially a domestic issue in the United States. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Bill Shorten says Scott Morrison needs to clean up the perception that perhaps the special reception he received in the US was in favour of the special favours. Do you agree with that?
ALBANESE: Well, what I say is that Scott Morrison needs to be very clear about the circumstances around this phone call, about what was said, about whether any agreement was reached in terms of assistance. We have a range of reports now, reports of correspondence and meetings involving the Australian ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey. Marise Payne, the Foreign Minister has made commentary on this. The Prime Minister’s office has made commentary on this. What Scott Morrison can’t do here is do what he’s had a tendency to do in recent times, which is to dismiss questions which are legitimate from the media as just gossip or as just being in the bubble. He needs to actually give some straight answers to what are very clear questions.
JOURNALIST: Would you have said no to the Attorney General in this situation?
ALBANESE: I’m not going into hypotheticals here. I wasn’t involved. What needs to happen here is not to look at hypotheticals. We need to look at what actually happened. Scott Morrison needs to explain what happened, who said what to whom, whether any undertakings were made. And, I think, clean up this issue very clearly because the Australian people will want to know what has happened here.
JOURNALIST: But if you were the Australian Prime Minister?
ALBANESE: I’m not the Australian Prime Minister. I’m the Leader of the Opposition. I am campaigning to be the Prime Minister. The question here is that the Australian Prime Minister needs to be accountable for his actions. He needs to give some clear answers to what are very legitimate questions about a very serious issue.
JOURNALIST: Would you say no to America’s request for information in an inquiry being conducted by our major ally?
ALBANESE: The Prime Minister is the person who needs to answer questions here. This isn’t theoretical. This is a real issue that the Prime Minister needs to respond to, particularly given I’ve made comments before about the footage of an Australian Prime Minister using language designed to feed into President Trump’s campaign like ‘making jobs great again’, with a whole lot of people with Trump campaign material. That was the Prime Minister and his office approving of that imagery just one week ago. The Prime Minister needs to be accountable for his actions.
JOURNALIST: What exactly are the dangers that you see in this circumstance of Australia being caught up in a US domestic issue?
ALBANESE: Well, very clearly this is a very controversial issue in the United States and that is the reason why our relationship with the United States is our most important relationship. They’re our most important ally. We are friends of the United States. It goes beyond an individual to an individual. What that relationship is about, and has been about, since the mid-1940s when Australia forms that important partnership with the United States is one of a people-to-people relations and nation-to-nation relations. It’s one that is not a partisan one and it’s not about Labor or Liberal or Democrat or Republican. It’s about country-to-country and it’s important that the Prime Minister bear that in mind at all times. Thanks very much.